Ask A Cartoonist: History’s Mysteries

By Tea Fougner

It’s Presidents’ Day Week here in the United States, and Presidents’ Day always gets me thinking about all the great men and women of history, from civil servants to sports heroes.  This week, our cartoonists shared some of their favorite historical figures with us– and some of them sent me their own cartoons of these important folks from history.  

Jim Borgman, Zits:

I have a fondness for reading about and drawing old baseball players. That’s pretty much what gets me through the winter, conjuring up the spirits of old ballplayers until pitchers and catchers report to spring training in late February.

Here’s Ewell Blackwell. He pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1940s, and came within two outs of equalling his teammate Johnny van der Meer’s feat of pitching two consecutive no-hitters. at 6’6” and 195 lbs, they called him “The Whip.”


Brian Walker, Hi and Lois:

Some of my favorite presidents are featured in this Presidents’ Day Sunday, also posted at HiandLois.com.

Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead:

Ernie Bushmiller for President! Oh, he’s dead….well, he’s still my favorite historical figure.
Seriously, with an orange-haired TV wrestling emcee running for the Oval Office, why not a dead genius cartoonist? I learned how to read by reading “Nancy”—-and I’m still learning.
One Nancy. One Sluggo. Three rocks!

Jeff Parker, Dustin:

As my reading pile beside our bed betrays, I’m a major history buff. I have an interest in lots of areas of study, such as, The Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, Napoleon, The Civil War, and World War II. But my favorite historical subject by far is Manned Space Flight.

I grew up just down the road from Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center in a little coastal, space-race boomtown called Satellite Beach. I’ve been an “orbit-head” my entire life, and witnessed an awful lot of historic launches from our back yard and beaches — Apollo moonshots being the most memorable.

And it was kind of serendipitous that I later began my career drawing editorial cartoons for FLORIDA TODAY, the Space Coast’s daily newspaper. My 21 years at FLATODAY came during the Space Shuttle program, and I “retired” shortly after the Shuttle did. But there were plenty of past program mission anniversaries and milestones that I was able to comment on during my tenure.

These two cartoons are a couple of favorites that harken back to humanity’s historic first forays into orbit.

This one from April 15, 2011 commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, opening the door to human spaceflight.

Here’s one from May 5, 2011 lauding the 50th anniversary of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. A dubious celebration at the time, as our U.S. Manned Spaceflight Program was (and still is) on the rocks as the Shuttle Program was being shut down with no new mission, funding, or vehicle to replace it — boy, if Alan Shepard had been alive then, he would’ve let NASA have it…

Isabella Bannerman, Six Chix:

When I was researching Jo Ann Robinson, the detail of her using a mimeograph machine to make copies really caught my attention. Today, she would have certainly gotten the word out with social media. The other thing I didn’t know about her was that she was a teacher at Alabama State College, and that is part of the reason she had access to the copier.

Ron Ferdinand, Dennis the Menace:

Hank was a great caricaturist as evidenced by this President Eisenhower panel from the 50’s. I’d love to see how he would have handled the current crop of candidates.

Bill Holbrook, Kevin & Kell, On the Fastrack, and Safe Havens

In “Safe Havens,” five-year-old Leonardo da Vinci time-traveled to our present, giving Samantha and Dave a challenge in parenthood.


John Rose, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith:

Here is one of my favorite Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comic strips from years past! Judging by the title panel, I’d say one of Jughaid’s favorite historical figures is definitely President Abraham Lincoln!

Mort Walker, Beetle Bailey:

I went through all the great people I’ve known, and Walt Disney soared to the surface. I always loved his nice characters and his works have made our lives pleasant for over 100 years. While other cartoon characters bask in sin and violence, his characters have kept us happy. I first met Walt in Kansas City 80 years ago when he made a speech. I waited outside the stage door and greeted him. He was so kind to me, I’ll never forget it. When I became a designer for Hallmark cards I used a lot of his characters in my designs and they sold very well. Later, when I began to succeed with my comic strip Walt made me the Guest of Honor at his birthday celebration in Marcaline, Mo. and invited me to lead the parade. Later, when I had several children, he invited us all for a free day at his new attraction, Disney World.

To me Walt was a good man, a great friend and a positive influence on our nation.

Alex Hallatt, Arctic Circle:

I can’t send the whole thing (because it hasn’t been published yet), but I’ve just drawn a comic for a science magazine for kids and it’s all about going back in time to talk to great scientists. One of my favourites is Ada Lovelace (who worked with Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine and has been recognised as the world’s first computer programmer). I thought she would be very excited to see modern computers.

 Tell us who some of YOUR favorite historical figures– or historical appearances in comics– are!